Monday, 28 December 2015

No Room in the Inn

Thinking seasonally, it suddenly seemed to me that the story of the search for a place for Mary to give birth may actually be as significant as the birth, itself.  No, don't protest yet: see what you think after I have had a go at explaining. The whole question of acceptability and confidence which comes with knowing who and where you are must be fundamental to human well-being, don't you think? The symbolic possibilities in the situation in which the Holy Family found themselves are endless. As we can't help but notice, there is currently a mind-blowing number of people on this planet without homes. More than just being without, they are exiled and destitute. It must be inconceivable to live any kind of 'ordinary' life in these circumstances. Giving birth on a dinghy will surely have echoes of giving birth in a barn.

 From those thoughts evolved  thoughts about  rejection, of feeling not wanted anywhere by anyone. People who find themselves in the wrong body, those who turn out to be a disappointment to those supposed to love and like them most must  constantly feel as if  forced in to an out-building on the farm of life. At all levels and in countless predicaments this feeling proves the rocky bed on which survival scrambles to take a hold. I have watched a cat of my acquaintance, who had an unsettled and unreliable early start in life grow from anger, fear and unreachability, even using his host's carpet as a litter tray, in to a joyful, lovable master of all he surveys. He lies unguarded, all the yard (meter) of him, on forbidden surfaces and greets in-comers with a sweet welcome and an invitation to play. I am not sure that humans with similar backgrounds would be able so genuinely and completely to overcome such an unpromising early life. It seems to me that not feeling wanted becomes a sort of fault-line. Thereafter, it is only too easy to regard a perceived rejection as being due to an inadequacy or characteristic in oneself that makes one unwantable. The pivotal thing about Mary, I think, was that she had the support of her husband and a batch of kings and assorted others who turned up in time, it seems, to find her clean and tidy holding a Baby who, according to most depictions of Him, had the look of a baby at least three months old. There is never a sign of blood and gore nor the exhaustion one would have expected after such a difficult and insanitary confinement. Nor does Joseph ever look to me to be someone with the presence of mind and resourcefulness to cut the umbilical cord. Ah well, in such a story anything can be made possible. Veracity is not always preferable to imagination, or, as the saying goes, why spoil a good tale with the truth?  Bore da

Friday, 4 December 2015

Received Wisdom

It was a toss up, whether to call this post  "Received Wisdom"  or "These I Have Learned", or, even, " Wisdom Received". Anyway, the intention is to address myself to all you youngsters out there to help prepare you for 75 on the outside and 40 where it matters. 1) Forget running for that 'bus. Catch the next one. 11) Allow enough time for 'bus-missing. 111) Either throw away your belts or keep your waist beltable.  1V) Do not drop things on to the floor. Your middle hinge will be too rusty to retrieve them. V) Do your best to help maintain standards, eg 'i' before 'e' except after 'c', See above. Do not use 'get' or its relatives. Supply a verb which will do the trick accurately.  Do not add words for emphasis, eg very unique. Is it unique or isn't it.  Kill off  'importantly' unless it is in a clause with a verb to which it applies. Remember your manners - literally keep bringing them to mind. In your older years you will find yours is the only generation which has any.

V1)  Clothes provide a whole catalogue of their own. Here what the Guru calls "Age Appropriate" applies. Throw out the denim. Throw out the narrow-legged trousers - women, and the baseball caps - men. If you must dye your hair pay through the nose so that you, your hairdresser and the junior who washes it are the only ones who know. If you are determined to do it at home, don't. No more bikinis and if you say you still look good in them, I find that very hard to believe. Watch out for swollen ankles - women - so that skirts may not do it for you if you have them: swollen ankles, that is. Watch out for droopy trousers - men. You have shrunk. Have them shortened. 'T' shirts are just about alright, particularly with sleeves at least to the elbow. If they have words on them bin them even if the words say "Keep Calm and ask Mum" or "Dad". No decolltage -women: Don't tell me your neck area is not a touch wrinkled. No chest hair - men. Do up that top button . No more bare arms - women, No ill-fitting false teeth - both. Use nothing which is a) shabby b) not pristine nor sparkling clean. Keep your glasses clean; you will need all the help you can acquire to see where you are going. By the way, I mean spectacles but you should keep your drinking glasses clean, too, (See under 'pristine').

V11) Do not try to flirt.  Throw out archness. It is toe-curlingly embarrassing to observe the elderly dealing with A. N.  Other as if they were still in their teens or twenties. Indeed, throw out any device which looks good on a young person: it will not be a good look on you post middle-age.Above all, keep learning and do let the young teach their Grandmother to suck eggs. Bore da

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Back to the Beginning

Other than activities that make life manageable for a baby, like eating, sleeping, crying and, ultimately even walking and talking, she/he starts, as soon as is practicable, to learn other ways to live a life as free from hassle as is possible. For instance, one of the first non-essentials I recall - Mother thought it was essential - was the difference between 'can' and  'may'. All these decades later, I can still hear her voice each time I need one or other. Unfortunately, 'can'  applies rather more often than 'may' in spite of the somewhat permissive age in to which I have crept.

Thinking about this, it came to me that old age seems determined to back-track on one's received knowledge, making it necessary to learn and experience all the little ploys again. An apple a day does not keep the Doctor away, particularly if you have dentures and the apple is crisp and juicy. I don't - have dentures, that is. I have green-inked long enough for you to remember that old age renders you invisible so, in an ideal world,  there would be a hand, or even one finger to hold on to walking in a crowded street. I have re-learned what happens to fine and wispy hair when it's wet: frizz, not  like scotch mist, more like wire wool. (Does wire wool still exist, do you know?) This covering was quite attractive when thin and wispy also meant a bow tied in the scrabbled together on the on-their-way locks. It  was a step in the ultimate direction  of a head full of woman's glory. Now it's a mess. Post prandial napping seems as natural as it must have been at six months, the difference being that it is rather late in the age to be wasting any time at all. I find, too, that I would have difficulty even in picking up as much as a Teddy Bear since my middle hinges have gone. I am also 'D' shaped in the middle, as little ones are, too, so that doesn't help deal with that stuff that's on the floor. I need a me from a former time when I was picker-up in Chief, to do my picking up, now. I recall the excitement of a whole page of script leaping out of the page as a readable reality. I was five, or maybe six and it was "Janet and John", (the book's title, of course). I have the same excitement when I press a key on my computer and find the whole page has actually not  been consigned to cyberspace. But one enormous gain wrested from the rules of baby-/childhood: I am so old I no longer have to eat my greens. Prynhawn da

Sunday, 15 November 2015

What's More

The "Does He Take Sugar?" phenomenon I put to you in the last post actually has several other faces.  One that features most often in my life could be called "Ignorant, Naughty Schoolgirl".  This occurs when I am seen to have made a mistake, indeed, often have made a mistake. The perpetrator then fixes me with a look which conveys both disgust and impatience - or even patience - and manages to correct me while making me feel a hopeless, inconsiderate waste of space: a naughty Schoolgirl' sensation; all this in a voice of compassionate understanding which feels infantilising in itself

I know, I know: I must take responsibility for my own reactions and I do, but I still don't like the way it makes me feel. One of the concomitant fall-outs is that I lose the capacity to justify myself or point out that I am factually right on the occasions when I am. Perhaps this highlights another potential hazard of older age: confidence, while increased in terms of sticking to a difficult truth, diminishes in terms of perceived tests of friendship and relatedness. In fact, the whole 'naughty schoolgirl' thing tends to depend on ones own particular fault line. Mine seems to be a concern that I may be seen as not-wantable. Yours may be, for instance, that you think only of yourself,  or that the world owes you whatever. At the forty end of my spectrum there was time to 'cure' the fault  that was irritating the other: time for another chance. Now, at this ancient end, the twig may fall off the tree before there has been any opportunity for reparation. How to reconcile that with the elderly  tendency to be direct and imperious is a conundrum I find disheartening and insoluble. Quite often my dodgy steps are to do with an unfamiliarity with the electronic world.  I have been to extraordinary lengths to track down over days information or an object. The Guru taps out a few digits on his phone and has the answer in seconds. To be fair, he  doesn't subject me to 'the look' when I do something stupid and/or old-fashioned.   I did risk buying cat food on the Internet - does it take a capital 'i'? - and was landed with a bag so big there is no cupboard to take it and I doubt my three and a half-year-old cat will have life enough to eat it all even if I have life enough  to serve it.

Someone who was staying with me once accused the cat of being evil and opportunistic. (I think he had used a hand-basin as a facility). "He's a cat" I protested. Me, I'm an old lady, evil and opportunistic as well I might.  Prynhawn da

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Spare Parts

Centuries - well, decades - ago a lady helped in my family's business. She liked to be really busy and whenever she found herself idle would say "Oh dear, I feel like a spare part." Recently I had an experience which came under the same heading but with a different content. Planning a brief break with A.N. Other, the suggestion was made that I should acquire a suitcase whose dimensions fitted the 'hand luggage' requirements of the relevant airline so that we would not waste too much of our mini-break waiting for luggage from the hold.

We duly went together to a specialist luggage shop. The Other explained what we wanted to the assistant who approached us. Without hesitation he addressed himself to the Other in terms of " What do you think will suit her best? How much is she prepared to spend?" and other queries destined to clarify what would be the right purchase for the senile, deaf, dumb and non-English speaker hovering over him. His concerns were answered and a case produced that cost a month's mortgage installment. Accepting the parsimony of the Other he produced some more reasonably priced.  Without once looking at me he showed his compassion, saying "This one is light enough for her. I recommend one with four wheels. She can ask for help to lift it in to the locker" and so forth and so fifth. With some difficulty we managed not to catch one another's eye and so avoided the discourtesy of laughing in his face. Finally, a case was chosen, at which point I asked him what his best price for it would be. Imagine his astonishment. Not only was I alive and well and in his shop but I had the gall to bargain with him. £6 was knocked off the asking price and we and the case rolled out of the shop free to laugh at last. That was fun. It is not so funny when I am an invisible spare part to people rushing past me not giving a d..n that I wobble and could easily fall over. It seems elderly women inevitably  move from eyelash fluttering through stick waving to invisibilty. I have green-inked about this before. Which brings me to another observation you may find relevant: the elderly, forgetting to whom they have told what, inevitably repeat themselves. Blog-browsing backwards I see that I am as guilty of that as the next dotty old age pensioner. Be patient with me, I beg you. However, I have to say there is merit in some spare parts: implanted contact lenses,  hearing aids, anti-pain patches and a third leg. No Zimmer frame as yet  Bore da

Friday, 23 October 2015

Forward Planning

The other day I received a telephone call from the Box Office of a concert venue I frequent frequently. It seems I hadn't sent back an application form for tickets for the season January to March 2016. I am what is called a Patron Member so warrant such a call. When I asked myself why I hadn't done so, my inner voice explained that it didn't tempt fate by forward booking. This is a fairly new experience and takes some getting used to. After all, "see you next week" was just as much a reality as breakfast in days gone by. I found myself calculating the cost of the tickets I then ordered and wondering whether or not it was a worthwhile investment in a future I may not have.  It was.

I listen to the news with a different ear. It seems unlikely I will either benefit or lose from projected government intervention in whatever 'in the next five years'. Dragging myself in to the technical C21st is begining to feel less important. May be I could scrape through with one foot in and the other behind for the number of years I may have left. Tidying cupboards is another manifestation. It seems my inner world wants to rid itself of the unecessary, the not- needed. It is actually true of worries, concerns and irritations, they are taking the external form of busy-housewifeness. There is an extra bonus of having 'as if' new clothes, wearing items I had forgotten about in an over-crowded watdrobe, (closet, across the Pond). This busy-ness may also make it easier for the young who will have to sort me out in absentia when the time comes. In a half-jesting way, I find I have started to respond "if I'm spared" when someone proposes an assignation a bit further on in the diary. It occured to me that I now don't have time to revisit all the friends I have made in the books I have read and re-read. Like many women of my generation, I was in love with Lord Peter Wimsey, the 'hero' of  Dorothy Sayers detective stiories. I have them all but if I re-read all of them will there be time for "For Whom the Bell Tolls"?  Working at the Out Patient enquiry desk at the local hospital I stepped outside the prescribed short answer to help a patient actually down to the clinic he needed. On the way passed, after his appointment, he stopped at my desk and said he had been told not to start "War and Peace". He was gone before I could comment. Anyway, what could I have said? It reminded me that I was talking about funerals at a gathering of friends at the end of a concert given by a close musician friend. I was saying that my wishes for my funeral included mostly recordings of him   He heard this and asked why I didn't want him there, live, at once adding "we'd better talk dates, though. I'm getting very busy". Bore da

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Now that title may well turn out to be a word I have invented. The condition I certainly have not and I am struggling between regret that I am still living in the last century and delight that one of us, at least, is keeping up with old traditions. It is risible that an old lady has to make as much effort to 'learn' the C21st as a reluctant student of, say, Mandarin. I still write thank-you letters. One of my friends, contemporary minus nine years, said, without rancour, that an email was more immediate. Ah, yes, but you can't stand it on the mantlepiece or file it under 'miscellaneous' in your overwought filing system. What about love letters? Do they just turn up on Facebook and Twitter? Not that I have access to either. The Guru thought it was appropriate Luddism to bar me from those two modern communication systems. But what to do with the pink ribbon in which they should be tied? Leave it for the cat to play with, I suppose.  Surely conveyance of condolence has to be by letter. One would imagine that the bereaved are a long way from bothering to open their electronic mail at such a heart- rending moment. On the other hand, a round robin of text messages conveyed the news of a recent demise - not, I hasten to say - originated by the family but a hodge podge of friends and colleagues.

Someone close to me has emailed a request for some printing, the material having been sent in an attachment. The Guru assumes it is a pose. That I pretend not to know how to deal with attachments so that laziness may prevail under the guise of ignorance. I do suspect there is an element of unconscious manipulation in my attitude but if you had asked me to print off some attached music for you, you'd be very suspicious if you received only half the score. Fortunately, I remember how to read music so I am fairly confident I got it all. My whole email system has been terrorising me. It keeps telling me my session has ended. No, it hasn't and why is it making those strictures now when it has been co-operating well enough for the last umpteen years. I watched a TV advertisement last evening which promised I could turn my heating on and off  on an Underground train by phone. My washing machine could be commanded thus, too. Oh dear: I can just about use my mobile phone as a landline to call and receive calls. I have been known to send the occasional text,  not always to the intended recipient but appearing under 'sent messages' in due course. Another person close to me won't even attempt to text but will read the ones received and then telephone if a response is required. I lack C21st mores. I don't use my mobile phone at dinner, or anytime, with friemds. Much out-of-home food is beyond me since I can't eat chillie. (Can I even spell it?) I am stuck when I am addressed on the 'phone by my first name and have taken to announcing myself as Mrs. Mountford to obviate the possibility. This is  not a snobbish or pedantic reaction but an emotional one: my inner world is jolted by the use of my first name by a total stranger. First names, for me, are like 'thou' in the languages that use the second person singular. Still, when all is said and done, a rose by any other name....Prynhawn da   P.S. Is there a C21st  way to keep the cat off the table?

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

No, they don't...

In case I have cast you in to a den of confusion, the title is meant to follow on from the last post (no pun intended). "The more things change..." and you had to supply:"The more they stay the same). Well, they do not.  My current green ink frenzy is stirred up by the use of an adverb when there is no connecting verb. You will know at once what I mean: 'importantly', as in 'more importantly, the English language has no need of this mistake'. By all means: ' the English language is ( the verb) importantly accent-free', clumsy as my over-stretched example may be. Do you follow a calendar? It no doubt shows you fixed events/chores. Some of us still have a diary: a note of daily obligations not a map of months, weeks and days, full moon and High Holy days included. For those of you who follow an itinerary it seems no transport is required. We can just distort the root of the word.

Recently, I fell foul of an audiologist to whom I had complained that my hearing aids made my voice sound to me as if it was coming from outside. "Oh," quoth she, "you mean there is an echo". No, I don't. I mean my voice sounds as if it is coming from outside, not that it is sounding twice in my ears: echoing, you could say. However, it seems that in the world of audiology, an echo doesn't mean an echo, it means your voice sounds to you as if it is coming from outside. After my exasperated "you are not listening to me", you could say our relationship fell apart, or, more important, I was sent off with hearing aids that didn't work as they had been paid to do. In a restaurant it has been my misfortune to hear "can I get a whatever?" I am sure the orderer is not offering to stand up and precure a bread roll for her/himself. She/he means she/ he would like the person whose job it is, to bring one to the table, subsequently - more important - to be paid for. 'Not spicy' now means 'will hurt my tongue'. 'Spicy' means red chilli and acute intestinal discomfort. 'I'll catch you later' ceases to mean 'if you fall down'. It means ' I will communicate with you later.' There is currently an advertisement for a firm of solicitors - yes, officers of the court - which suggests that if something has been mis-sold to"you and I" this firm will sue on your behalf, (or, maybe, prosecute). Would you trust your court experience to a firm that is not sufficiently educated even to instruct its advertising agency in nominative and accusative? No doubt they are thrilled by the attention the mistake has arouised. Any publicity is good publicity. However, I would be very surprised if this publicity did more than cause a few derisory chuckles, and, more important, no new clients. There will a mass of you out there wondering why on earth it should matter. Language evolves. So it may, but, more important, it also represents clarity and boundaries, form and harmony in our entire way of being in the world. Do you enjoy the wrong notes played in a piece of music? Do they strike your eardrum with shock and horror? That is how a  mistake in the spoken phrase may effect some of us. But how important is that? I ask myself. I ask you.  Nos da

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The More Things Change...........

It ocurred to me that, in some ways, the world, or rather, the people in it, is going round in circles. I asked the Guru what an emoticon was. It seems it is a sort of picture to describe an emotion. Well, our ancestors were conveying information via drawings on their walls quite a bit before emoticons were 'invented.' Aboriginal communication, as I understand it, depends on messages going, as it were, through the ether.  Remind you of anything?  Whenever I grumble to the Guru about something lost on my laptop he explains, sometimes with more patience than others, that stuff is stored in cyberspace, not physically on the computer. Aboriginies, you have been right all along: bush telegraph by any other name...

Is there really that much difference between woad and tattoos? Isn't there  merely a change in geography when babies are currently carried strapped to a parent's tummy as opposed to strapped to the back of ancient women working in the fields or around the house? Taking to the sea when you  believed the earth was flat and you might fall off the edge would seem a familiar adventure to men - or women, of course - flying in to space.  Maybe Colonel Glenn and Vasgo de Gama did have a thing or two in common. I was in labour with number one when the first man arrived in space. Other than the officious nurse who stopped me leaning forward to pick up the sticky new arrival - not sterile - I had done nothing, (indeed, the baby and I), that had'nt been done  for several millenia before us

I am tempted to go on with this. It's fun thinking of more 'nothing's new' examples, but I feel I have to tell you, now, why there has been such a gap in transmission. It has been scarlet swim-suit time. The Guru and I went off for our annual look at the sea in foreign parts and it has taken me longer than the time we were away to get back in to my routine life. Before we left I treated my feline boss to a spa day, (so that his minder wouldn't have to worry so much about his physical care, silly). He had a sauna, (dry shampoo bath), a hairdo, (thorough brushing, nether parts included), and a pawdicure, (self explanatory). He came home looking like a picture book cat and immediately started grooming himself, presumably to show how it should be done.  The more things change.... Bore da

Saturday, 15 August 2015


Have you ever been to bed so  late you felt you had no need to brush your teeth in the morning?  I have had several of those nights recently and 'more than 75 going on 40' feels more like '75 going on 108' As I believe I keep pointing out, great(ish) age turns up some totally unexpected contentions - I think I mean things with which to contend. For instance, as well as getting tired, it never occured to me that a walk which has taken six minutes for the same number of decades gradually begins to take fifteen. . The phenomenon is so gradual that it doesn't register immediately but, having once been noticed,  I determined to increase my pace. No chance: the joints and screws and various other items needed for propulsion had simply stopped co-operating.

Nor did I expect deafness. There was nothing heriditary that suggested I may lose some degree of hearing. I have had some funny - both odd funny and humourous funny - experiences as a result. At the Out Patients' Clinic Enquiry Desk where I work at the local hospital I had a question from a pleasant looking man whose words I didn't catch. Granted, someone was moving squeaky equipment passed the desk at the same moment but the poor man had to repeat himself rather more than once. In the end, I cupped my hand to my ear and asked him to have one more go. "Audiology", he bellowed, "which clinic?". To my good fortune we both fell about laughing and my fears of being reported for conduct unbecoming trickled away. On his way back, passing perforce, the desk again, without stopping he pointed at me and said "I've made an appointment for you." I did, however, learn the lesson and determined to better the NHS hearing aids which, between you and me, I was already wearing, with some a little more sophisticated - also, they whistle. You may say, at my age, it's hardly worth the expense. My view is that I don't want to fade away without knowing whether those around me are blessing or cursing me. So yesterday, I duly presented myself at an audiology facility and underwent some tests which involved pressing a button in response to various high and low pitched bat and mouse noises. A diagnosis was made which I doubt took in to account the 'did-I-or-didn't-I' dilemma of what had or had not been heard. A situation which is not easy for an accuratologist who , in an ideal world, needed time to work out the yes or no of it. At any rate, a prescription was offered at a price so ridiculous I agreed to it much as one might have agreed to fund a scholarship in the Hearing Arts, in absolute expectation one would never be called upon to honour it. Scarlet swimsuit time is nearly upon us again, so the incentive was to have the aids in time to hear the waves crashing on the shore. If the Mistral blows I'll take them out. Prynhawn da

Sunday, 2 August 2015


Someone in the outer, outer circle of my life found she had had enough of dealing with things and this week gave up. I wonder if she could have put her imagination to the effect this would have on those, who in spite of her insecurities and fragility, loved and cherished her.  I have the feeling that souls in that position see their loved ones as being better off without them. So, for them, there is no question of sticking it out for the sake of whomever. As I understand it, she was not yet at retiring age so, in principal, with time for things to improve. This was clearly not a realistic expectation for her.

When I was forty eighty seemed like another country and, indeed, in many ways it is. There must be many inevitable losses in the ninth decade. The loss of a future may seem the starkest. Minor things will improve. One can fix a new knob to the door where the incumbent keeps coming off. One can find someone to lower the drying rack so that no-one has to fetch the steps to reach it. Some of us need to re-organise our way of being in the physical world. It is definitely declension of a walk along the banks of the river Ure. It is taxing to go anywhere by train if one conjugates the factors, because of the length of the platforms to be covered. To circumvent this, one can go by motor car. One - anyway, I, - can persuade a physician to try an injection which may help the pain caused by walking. What I and my contemporaries can't do is commit ourselves to a promise to do something in 2030, . Thinking about it, I concluded that hope was another commodity lost to age. However, this is not strictly so: one just has to find possibilities possible to hope for. I can't hope to walk along a river in Yorkshire, but I can hope for some relief from pain and for a handwritten, personal letter in the post. (You remember: a man or woman used to come up to the door and push paper through a special flap in it. You could then see who had been thinking of you or to whom you owed money).The old saw "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow etc etc" suddenly blossoms with meaning. This morning, after serving My Lord Cat with 'wet' food, which is good for him, he began a plaintive wail -whine, even -which I knew meant 'I'd like some biscuits please'. In due course, the communication became much more 'what the H... do you think you are doing. Never mind what's good for me'. As a direct result of the  news which opened this post, I gave him a huge plate of biscuits: (cat biscuits, of course, silly). I did this on the basis that you have only one life so ditch the shoulds and shouldn'ts and get on with it. Prynhawn da

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

These I Have Missed

Having offered you 'These I have Loved' and 'These I have Loathed I felt moved to proceed to These I have Missed   It's perhaps not surprising that there are things  one misses in the 75 not 40 category. One of them, for me for instance, would be my waist. I haven't seen that in years .Arms would be another .Actually, I have seen them but they are a long way from being suitable for public viewing. I simply don't do them so am always on the look-out for sympathetic sleeves. Ankles have also  gone walkabout. I need to choose between a total disregard for skirts or a total disregard for the elderly predicament of no difference in width between knee and foot .As it happens, I do find, as the days hurtle by, that I am less and less troubled by what the eye of the other is seeing so have been out in a dress and fat ankles.

I find I miss longhand. One of my nicest possessions is a fountain pen of such refinement it ranks more as an 'objet d'art' than a wordsmith's tool. There will be those among you who have never filled a fountain pen nor scrawled a love message in blue-black. . However, in a cloud of lost yesteryear I see I have rather romanticised the longhand thing. An error made at the top of a hand- written page incurred a fine of huge proportions: one had to re-write the whole page.However, the advantage of the electronic conveyer of that which must be written down is that what it promises in practical error-removing and re-think possibilities, it loses in malfunctioning. As we speak, the short line curser which shows you where your letters are has joined the nomads so I am having to guess where the print will start and am doubtful about the length of sentences and paragraphs. The Wizard of Cyberspace never interfered in my earlier writing life.

Babies: I miss living with and looking after little people. I miss the feel of a small body against my chest and the gummy, smiley greeting at picking-up time .Truth be told, I miss the absolute sense of purpose the twenty-four-seven -fifty two  the role assumed. I miss good manners and find my own exagerated in a sort of 'yah boo and sucks' compensation. I do know, Gentle Reader, things were always better in the country where one was forty, but I am not the only green-inker who thinks the snows of before were whiter than  the snows of today. With some ruth, I miss forward planning. Recently a television programme I enjoy came to its season's end. Just think, I can see what happens next only,  as a dear, elderly friend used to say when I tried to arrange a meeting for a specific date, "If I am spared, Dear" Bore da

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


Today is the tenth anniversary of the terrorist bombings in London which killed fifty seven people and injured many more. Someone in my circle lost a leg. How it feels to  be him is beyond my imagination, but he shows us all a warmth and health of spirit that shames  anyone grumbling about a tricky computer for instance, in to the incontravertibly old-fashioned solution of counting their blessings. I have always advocated that a trauma has to be measured holistically, in the context of the sufferer's way of being in the world. A baby whose toy lies outside her/his reach is within  her/his rights to carry on as if deprived of a loved human being. To an obsessive tidier a plant pot spilt on the carpet can  feel like a car crash to a differently wired personality. However, this having been said, in the interest of what degree of sympathy to offer, it must be acnowledged that the loss of a limb is,   nevertheless, a gold amongst bronze disasters and should be treated as such without any 'yes-butting' about our own disasters

It is no secret that I am a World War Two child. ( Anyone who can add up must know that). It seems to me that my generation has a response to disaster tht is laced with the wine of a remembered state of mind. Disasters were daily events, particularly in the big cities. As it happens, although I didn't live in a big city, I did come from a town with a very important port which was an early and frequent target of German bombers.  I had been disaptched - I want to say 'abandoned - to boarding school for my safety so had to contend with the breath-holding worry that my parents may not have survived from one night to another. Imagine: no mobile phones, not even direct dialling. How was one of a hundred little girls to find out about her family's fate when such an odyssey had to go through Matron to a form teacher, to the Head and then through a telephone exchange whose lines were mostly taken up with essential and hush-hush emergency calls. Shortages and deprivation of material as well as emotional necessities were simply the way things were. Stoicism became the yeast in our bread, essential but virtually unnoticed, a condition which my lot lives with to this day. And now, especially, the blessing-counting is necessary in the wake of indescribable horrors in the rest of the world.
 .I know, I  know: what has this got to do with being 75 (more than) going on 40? Well, we shall just have to call this post "75 going on 6". Bore da


Friday, 19 June 2015


There has been a breach of continuity, nothing too serious. Some posts back I told you that I discovered my weight loss only when I came to do up my trousers without having to yank the edges of the waist band together. In a subsequent post I said that I was still egg-shaped which, to the accuracologist in me didn't accord with the waist band bit, In fact, both are true. It is just that there is a smaller egg.
Before lack of interest causes you to lose the will to live, I thought you may be interested in the subject, anyway. As you can imagine, to someone who bores for England in the dotted 'i' and crossed 't' field, the business of continuity is pretty absorbing. As a young person I was fascinated by the job of the continuity girl on the film's acknowledgement- credits Whatever they are called now, it doesn't seem to be that and, in any case, would need to have a neutral gender reference:continuity person? To this day, fast forward seventy years, I am still fixated by the question. My pleasure in any well-loved series on television is always 'yes-butted' by sloppy continuity. Yellow lines on a 50s road, phrases imported from our American cousins in a Victorian drama, American characters eating with both knife and fork etc., etc. I am inclined to be somewhat obsessive about this, (I do know you have noticed) and find myself wondering why. It seems to be to do with the security of truth. If things are as they purport to be then everything must be alright in the best of all possible worlds.  I know of families where the most profound information is kept secret: siblings with one different parent, for instance. Sometimes the offspring of a different parent from the younger ones do know but are barred from telling the others. Sometimes only the parent in common knows. Many years ago I had the acquaintance of a man who had been born with a still-born twin clinging to his knee. This came to  light only when he sought help to explore the reason for a difficulty to form stable relationships. His whole life and character had been an  obsessive odessy to 'find' his lost brother. One wouldn't find a difficulty to trust surprising in a background of secrets and lies. And, no, I don't think the nature of human beings was predicated by a stolen apple. Bore da

Sunday, 7 June 2015


A salutary experience:  the other day some people started work painting the outside of my house. Very early - too early for a retired old lady - the door bell rang and I staggered down to answer it. After a few minutes of greeting , explanations and location-guidance, I crept back to my room and prepared myself for the day. About an hour later the bell went again. I opened it to see one of the workmen who asked if he could speak to Mrs. Mountford. There you have it, I looked so entirely different fully dressed and, let's face it, fully made up, that he didn't recognise me. There was a nano second of  one discussion while I wondered whether or not to foster this assumptionm that there were two women paying him to brighten up their exterior or to bow to the inevitable and confess that I was she. I chose the latter on the basis that he and his mates would be seeing me in all manner of stages over the coming weeks and that truth would out one way or the other.

I do confess that it has been quite testing getting used to the physical appearance of ageing, though. Lately, I have lost weight, quite a measure of weight. Thrilled, I tried some clothes I haven't worn since longer than I have courage to tell you. There was scarcely any difference in put-on-ability. You see, the weight had not been lost from the middle where the egg-shape still prevails. If I were a disciplined and dedicated doer of all the 'shoulds' I would undertake some exercises to put this anomaly right. I am not. Life is too short to touch one's toes. (I see that this is, currently, more than a figure of speech. At my age life really is too short to touch my toes). Since you ask, the weight has been lost as an unexpected side bonus of giving up chocolate and sweets. Hand on heart I swear I hadn't seen that coming and was so proud of being on the wagon I noticed nothing else. (I have a faint recollection that I have told you this already. The man in the archive is running after me flapping the relevant post and trying to stop me committing yet another old-lady fault,  repetition). There are also certain clothes embargoed: shorts, short skirts, short sleeves, low necklines, the exotic - unless you are an exotic woman in all other respects, too. I have a very dear friend whose appearance is gloriously exotic and always has been.  She suffers the opposite trial from me, invisible and prone to be bumped in to. She is constantly noticed and, she suspects, given a wide berth. Long hair and dyed hair is another no-no Framing an elderly face it looks desperate, as if denying the march of time and the deterioration of locks. Best of all, though, is the change in facial appearance. Made up or bare the  face has reached an equilibrium that is somehow without age - except for the picture in the attic. Bore da

Sunday, 31 May 2015


Strictly speaking, this post doesn't chime particularly with the as- if exam question, "Inner 40 as opposed to outer stopped- counting": discuss. However, what has been exercising my mind is the number of situations,  which, once started, can't be stopped. Washing one's hair comes to mind. Once it is wet there is no going back. You may dry it without benefit of shampoo, but, once comprehensively wet, it does make more sense just to carry on.  You can't unopen a letter, nor can you unpost it. I have long tried to teach myself to keep a letter overnight in case, come daylight, I have changed my mind about posting it at all. It doesn't work, not even for the ones written in green ink.

Should you be among the carriers of the future, you can't stop that, either. Labour, once started, has to be followed through to the - hopefully - glorious end. The first time I realised this, on the stairs of the maternity home where number one was born, it was a life changing moment. I saw, that without seeing,  I had been a border-line control freak and this was my initiation in to something over which I had no control. Alright, alright, one can control the course of labour to some extent. You cannot stop the actual event absolutely, tell it to fade away until you feel more like it or when the stars are more propitious. As it happens, number one was arriving as the first man was walking in space. I don't suppose he could stop that either. "Oops, I've remembered a prior engagement. Put me down at once": probably not. Fainting is another example. I remember, heavily pregnant, carrying the toddler in my arms, knowing I was going and trying to control things so that the little one landed on the one who was still in utero. Modesty prevents me from listing obvious other intervention-impossible experiences. No doubt you are working those out as we speak. As it happens my habitual use of hyphens always brings to mind a dear and old friend, a noted journalist, who encouraged my writing and was a fully signed-up hyphen user, himself. Sadly, he recently shuffled off this mortal coil and I suspect, like birth, there's no stopping that, neither. Nos da.

Friday, 22 May 2015


Somehow, somewhere, I must have annoyed the Wizard of Cyberspace. My computer is behaving like a recalcitrant teenager or, worse, a newly verbal toddler: "won't, shan't, can't make me" about covers it. My 'toolbar' diappears, typed letters appear a couple of seconds after I've pressed the keys and the screen goes misty blue and static at the squeek of a mouse. Much worse, after the business of my stolen handbag, two days ago my car was stolen. I am begining to adjust to the years of  my life which have to be devoted to telephoning and otherwise organising matters in the wake of these disasters. Who would want a four-year old Polo in need of a wash, I asked myself. The child-policewoman who came round with her 'Victim Support Card' told me it was a desirable get-away car because it was so inconspicuus. Thank you very much, always keen to do a service, even for car-thieves. No doubt I am far from alone in this experience but it is decidedly freaky to come up to the parking bay in which you left your four-wheeled friend to see a stranger in it. It's like the nightmare where you have the right key but the door opens in to the wrong house. I don't know about how you would have felt, but the experience took me many seconds before I could re- believe  in my sanity: yes, I had left the car on that very disabled bay, no, it hadn't changed make and registration, there was a cuckoo in my nest and my bird had flown.

It set me thinking about forgetfulness and other vicissitudes of old age. (Well, it would do, wouldn't it?) In the past, if my car had a puncture, I would stand by it and flutter my eyelashes until some nice, strong rugby player came by and offered to change the tyre.  There was a gap in middle age when that didn't work any longer and I had to deal with it myself, but now I simply wave my stick and, hey presto, Age UK sends a carer with a spanner and I just lean against a wall and watch. In a big London store the other day, I spotted a sign suggesting a treatment that would delay the ageing process. I don't need that, I have aged. In my Welsh home town there are two car-hire companies. Neither will lend to  anyone over seventy five so homesickness has to wait until someone close to me who lives north of the border ventures south and drives me - or did before my car was stolen. And, no, I can't just take the train because I need a car at the other end to visit and revisit where the 'bus service is really just a figment of one's imagination. But, by and large, and on balance and whatever other cliche comes to mind, it's not so bad up here in the mighty 80's. At forty I would have been close to a breakdown at the outflow of hassle from the vehicular theft: what about the little ones at the school gates, all different schools coming out at the same time, what about the stew in the oven, what about the night's supper in the boot (trunk) with milk going off in the summer heat? Now it's just funny, faced with that cuckoo and managing to rationalise it and hop in a taxi. It no longer matters where one could find the snows of yesteryear. Bore da

Saturday, 9 May 2015


Recently, circumstances have given me pause for thought about volunteering. You may have noticed, of course, that I drop in, from time to time, the information that I volunteer for work in my local hospital. I am  thankful that I have skills which can be put to use in that context. Volunteering is a time-honoured arm of the need for service, sometimes ad hoc and sometimes permanent. I see it, inter alia, as a back up for paid workers who simply haven't time enough to do all a situation requires. There are probably two streams: one that uses the volunteers professional skills, say, when nurses go temporarily to an area where there is a severe out-break of disease   to do their usual work, and the other where the skills may well be professional but are no longer used in gainful employment. More often than not the work is not the result of a crisis. In that case, the volunteering is often open-ended. and can continue ad infinitum.

When I was in paid employment, one of my duties was to train and supervise volunteers who worked with the public in what has come to be called "the helping professions". They were usually people who were still gainfully employed but who were happy to give time where they felt they could offer something valuable enough where there was a need for it. A conclusion we came to which was incontravertible, was that what they were doing was a professional job without pay. The vital element was the 'professional'. To-day, I still see that as the foundation of the phenomenon. However, there is a vital difference between that sort of professionalism and the paid sort: volunteers, being without monetary recompense have a different relationship with those who manage them - if any. While the volunteer must give of her/his utmost, the management should bear in mind that the usual strictures and sanctions on paid employees may not be equally appropriate. Apart from serving as adjunct to professional, i.e. paid, staff, there is also an enormous band of people giving time for what one may call more mundane causes, like, for instance, staffing an enquiry desk at the out-patients clinic at a hospital. Inevitably, the corps of people available to do this, year after year after year is made up of those who are retired and often of a generation which took the need for this service for granted. They may have had mothers who rolled bandages during the war, or who made tea and sandwiches for refugees from the bombing and destruction. If I were able to state a viable demographic it would probably produce a picture of a middle- to late-aged woman or man with a certain level of education and, possibly, time- though not necessarily cash- rich. This would fly in the face of the need for diversity and equal opportunities, essential elements in the world of today. But, wait a minute. Is this absolutely a no-no?  Of course, if we keep the age, the level of education and the freedom from earning, diversity and equal opportunities must easily be accommodated. Where there could be problems is if the diverse and equal do not have a history of volunteering and are also youngish and on a possible career path with a C.V. to consider:('resume' if you are over the Pond) I think that one of the foundation stones of  'professional'  volunteering is long-term dedication and the gift of experience. I know, I know, it does sound more like a band from the Womens' Institute, or rather, the country's somewhat patronising view of it, but these volunteers can work for as long as they and their marbles  can handle it. The young will be  short-term, moving on to finding a way to earn a living and add to the store of expertise - or, even humdrum - in the outside world. Prynhawn da

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

These I Have Loathed

If any of you kind keepers up is as old as I am you may well remember a radio programme called "These I Have Loved". It was a programme of recordings chosen by well-known people who also gave the background to their choices. There are several programmes like it now, with selectors being interviewd.  Then, the subject just got on with listing and playing all by him/her self. Re-creating such a programme would be relatively easy and, indeed, I have known it as a sort of parlour game among friends dining together. However. the other side of that particular coin has to be "These I have loathed".

This category has been triggered by work going on in the adjoining house. The new owner, having told the neighbours on either side that he was just going to alter the patio doors at the back of the house is actually gutting the entire interior of his Grade11 listed dwelling with a drilling and a banging such as you have never heard even in the dentist's chair during root-canal work. This morning I went to see the foreman because a friend had come, in some distress, wanting  conversation and support and I couldn't hear my thoughts never mind her words. I was told, in a bland and indifferent voice, that certain work had to be done in a certain time framework and basically, by inference, to take my unreasonable self off and never darken their  door again. So, drilling on the wall common to both of us is definitely loathable. Mind you, I should confess that when I moved in a builder friend arrived to find me drilling a hole to place a picture hook. "Making a coat hook for next door, are you" he said. The next current loath is a cleaning product advertised by a loathsome man who promises "Bang and the dirt is gone." I would rather live in the dirt than use the product. I loath my aged lapses of memory and the slowness  of the man in my archives  finding the answers and even dropping some before he can deliver them.  I am not too fond of the Wizard of Cyberspace but  would be afraid of loathing him for fear of repercussions. I don't like sniffing unrelated to a cold, jars I can't open, waiting in out-patients, the condition of many public toilet facilities, intractability and people who find my external more- than-three- score- and- ten appearance an excuse for lumpen rudeness and a total disregard of  my presence in their space.  Desist: as it happens, aside from the drillers, I confess I have had rather a hard time finding things I loath. Honestly, if  it were not for the perceived need to follow a theme, I could have stopped long ago. So much for the calm tolerance of now as against the angst of yesteryear. Oh, and by the way, the man in the archive has just produced the name of the "These You Have Loved" producer: Doris Arnold. Don't you just love when a jigsaw is complete? Bore da  PS., Milk bottles on the table

Friday, 10 April 2015

If Only

My name is Elizabeth: I'm a recovering chocaholic.  I know, I know: it is only two minutes since I confessed to being an accuracholic. Well, to be quite accurate, it was about a month or five weeks ago. Sadly, the two conditions are not mutually exclusive.  Last January 20th I took the decision to climb on the 'no chocolate, no sweets' wagon; this being a more acceptable alternative to drastic medication measures that were being proposed for reasons of health. (Just how drastic can be surmised from the concommittant nature of the sacrificial alternative ). This decision had a totally unlooked for add-on bonus. One morning, taking both sides of the waistband of  my trousers in both hands and yanking them to meet in the middle, I found I had over-shot. The hook on my right side by-passed the loop on my left by about three quarters of an inch. (You work out the centimeters, or ask the Guru). I clambered on to the scales to find I weighed, fully dressed, that which I had weighed with no clothes on a day or so before. Indeed, next morning, once again in the alltogether, I found that I had lost nine pounds or roughly 3 kilos. How an eight-ounce bar of choclate can produce at least two pounds in weight is beyond my understanding. But there you are, the proof of the pudding is in the non-eating.

This brings me to another bit of green ink. "Things" as the saying goes, "are not what they used to be". Last week, I was introduced to a young person where I work. We chatted for a bit, while she observed what it was I did and how it was I was doing it. She was awsomely qualified with several first degress and further degrees and very impressive CsV. As it happened, I had occasion - or it seemed to me I had - to use a proverb, or, even, so as not to give it airs above its station, a saying. I am not prepared to take an oath but I do believe it was "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush":utter blankness, not to say incomprehension.  I had a stab at explaining: I got politeness,. I tried "A stitch in time saves nine". A what-have-I -let-myself-in-for look ensued. I couldn't say how I looked but I couldn't get my head round the fact that this delightful, intelligent, educated young person had never walked passed a proverb in her life before. I am aware that life was always " better" when we were all forty, but I am still going to stick my neck out and aver that, currently, current education is  proof of that. I have the feeling that those of  my young who have already put in  half a century were the last to be taught grammar in any formal sense. The accuracolic chocaholic in me still feels faint in the presense of "I" when it should have been "me". Indeed, there is an advertisement - for solicitors, no less -  on television at the moment where the speaker uses "I" glaringly discordantly. It may not surprise you that I rang the number referred to and asked to speak to someone responsible for advertising. Dear Reader, I got nowhere. It must have been "People in glass houses should not throw stones". Prynhawn da

Friday, 3 April 2015


Have you noticed how school labels the days and the times for us? Attending school, one knew which day it  was because, for instance, the weekend was over so it must be Monday. Mother has reminded one to take one's gym kit so it must be Wedesnday - at least, in my school. The weekend is coming so it must be Friday and home smells of baking on that day. It was Tuesday when I went in to the town and had tea with my Mother and her friends in a place which doesn't exist anymore. (For Heaven's sake, when Hitler had finished reshaping out familiar landscape, why did we have to start pulling things down ourselves?). Later, the days are identified by other peoples' school routine; the inner notepad nagging to get the gym kit dried in time.  Machinations were required to be in two places at the same time on football/cricket days. Leave the sportsman, muddy and worn out, to wait until the littlest one has been picked up, or leave the little one to wait in the rain while the muddy one is picked up? Ironically, at one level, although I could name games' days, on another, looking after a number of other very busy people, the days all ran in to one another and I had to stop and give them their names in an attempt to hold on to the pattern required to save everyone, not just me,  from spinning in to chaos in the tumble dryer of every day..

This split turns up as we speak, the knowing and not knowing what day it is.You have Sunday every day of the ten days of Christmas. There is also Good Friday Sunday and Easter Saturday Sunday and Sunday Sunday. That  is your one true Sunday: on Easter day. I work on Mondays and Thursdays so Tuesday after Monday, could easily be Friday and it is hard to grasp that Friday actually is Friday after Thursday has passed. Ever since I  was a little girl, the names of the days have turned up to my inner eye in colour. There  is a name for this phenomenon which I can't remember. Can you help? I know it attaches to every word for some who are afflicted. However, as I was saying, the days have colours and part of the dayname muddle is the way the colours run in to one another when I am struggling to identify on which day of the week I have  made the current mess-up. Are you sure you want to know? Very well: Monday white, Tuesday dark brown, Wednesday green, Thursday light brown, Friday grey,Saturday yellow and Sunday blue and, no, since you ask, I don't have the faintest idea why. On the radio programme to which I habitually listen Sunday afternoons, are taken up by boring, talky magazine programmes. I have been typing away thinking how much more musical it is this afternoon. Good for them, bowing to popular demand. Well, actually, not so. No doubt it will bore for England when it will be Sunday: today is Friday. Prynhawn da.

Sunday, 22 March 2015


As a trained observer I have noticed, not suddenly but gradually, how much more often I need to say "thank you" than in yesteryear. Subtly, the small things that I didn't even register when I was a middle-aged youngster, have become large things for which I need help. In some cases, it becomes quite costly. If the nice taxi driver gets out of his cab to help me out, I feel I have to double the tip I would otherwise have given him. Equally, I subtract the tip if he doesn't get out and I am faced with the cliff-hanger which is the measure of the gap between the taxi step and the road outside. Taxi drivers, in my experience, rarely stop close to the pavement (sidewalk) so the descent is even longer than it need be.

My walking stick has a penchant for the floor. Inevitably, thankfully, someone bends down to pick it up for me. Someone with whom I am sharing a table at the hospital canteen will see me put my  bottle of water to my teeth and offer to open it simply with a grip I just about remember exercising. As it happens, I once caught sight of myself using this method of opening a closed top and it is not a pretty sight. It has definitely to be relegated to the no-no register of elderly elegance. From time to time, I am allowed to jump the queue to pay in the canteen. This is a dispensation for which 'thank you' is scarcely enough. A loaded tray, water bottle rolling about and lid of salad container bouncing uneasily around when one hand is holding a walking stick is almost Jugglerdom in the skill it requires. Recently, I went home to Wales with someone close to me. At his suggestion, we hired a wheel chair so that I could process a little further than would be possible on Shank's pony: (on foot, if it's not a phrase with which you are on usage terms. I try to be cognisant of my American-cousin-readers and translate and explain wherever I have the knowledge to do so). I found it an excercise in both acceptance and denial. I accepted that I could not walk as far as a favourite  headland and I was denying the otherwise humiliating and dependant nature of the enterprise. Actually, it was not denying so much as lifting myself away from the way it could have felt to be back in a push chair  with a fountain of 'thank yous' to those whom we displaced on the path and to the Pusher who, five decades or so ago, would have been the Pushed. It seems that somewhere, Someone has a sense of humour. How else could one accept the circular irony of the Pushed turning Pusher? Humour provides a serendipidy for which I can only say a thousand times 'thank you' or even Diolch.  Bore da

Saturday, 14 March 2015


Those of you kind enough to keep up will have noticed that I keep referring to drawer-tidying. This is partly  a wish not to burden the young, in the fullness of time, with more than is reasonable, partly a way of avoiding the inclination of the elderly to hoard and have in reserve - running out of tangibles being a metaphor for running out of life - and partly a way of sculpting the essentials from the block of clutter which has built up for a lot more than three score and ten years.

The unexpected, or even astounding, discovery in this activity is that I come across clothes I had long forgotten I had. Last week it was the jumper drawer. Right at the back, pristine in its original plastic protection, was a soft white jumper in the style of a blouse. This means that it had a collar and cuffs. On top of it was another softie, a 'goes-over' that makes a layered look that is the one current fashion even I am not too old to follow. (My canny Mother used to say about fashion that, if it came round a second time, you were too old to wear it). Buried deep were also some jumpers in jewel colours that hadn't seen the light of day for years and years. I am very excited about having as-if new clothes without shopping and without expense. The same with books. I am in the middle of a project to count my books. Since you ask, no reason other than curiosity but, perhaps, also to help with the posthumous decision of how many skips (dumpsters) will be needed for the ultimate clearout. There are 120 in the bedroom alone.  I may well be counting the last one  concurrent with ordering the skip in the first place. A few days ago, at the hospital where I work, I helped a patient find the out-patients' clinic he was looking for. On his way back he stopped and thanked me. "They told me not to start War and Peace" he said and was gone before I could blink. Humour, bravery, denial, untrue, which would you say it was? Anyway, if we happen to pass in the street and you start thinking I am always wearing something new and must, therefore, be very rich, please go home and tidy your drawers and you can be very rich, too. Alternatively, you can take a leaf from the book, counted or not, of the Emperor whose new clothes were guaranteed to keep him cool in summer and cold in winter. Prynhawn da

Sunday, 8 March 2015


There has, I acknowledge, been a slight break in transmission. This occured because my handbag was stolen. Among you there will be scores, nay, hundreds who have endured this experience, all of us with our entire transactional lives in our world-carrying accessories. I exaggerate not when I say that it took me eight days, when I was neither sleeping, eating or working at the hospital to unravel the tangle and restore the status quo ante. Even at the hospital I spent my lunch break on the phone. Anyway, I am up and running again now although my new credit card, verified, signed and activated is still being rejected by  old friends who seem unable to give up and mourn the old numbers and condescend to honour the new. The mechanisms of twenty-first living are wondrous to behold to those born the familiar more- than- three- score and ten years ago and Hell on Earth when they trip up. In the forty minutes I took to order cat food online with my new card I could have been down at the Pet shop and back twice and a half.

As  it happens, I didn't intend my explanation to include another green-ink rant, but there you are: needs must when the Wizard of Cyberspace is in the ascendant. Which reminds me, my horoscope this week tells me there will be a new love interest in my life. This is seriously unlikely. At my age I am lucky to hold on to the people I already love - and they to me, come to that. It made me think about how one - I - express love. The first thing that came to mind was whether or not I wash my hair on the day of a meeting with someone in my life. If this is a loved one then, yes, I do wash my hair. (The significance of this is that it needs doing every other day so has to hide under a hat if I have to miss a wash to accommodate the relevant date; a problem in summer, actually). So my life is divided, perforce, in to clean-hair-friends and it-will-have-to-do friends. When I was a young woman this dictum was set in concrete. Now, I do occasionally let a loved one in to the secret of scraggy hair. I was reminded of what, by now, must be a very old film: "Love Story". There was this famous- infamous? - line which went "Love means never having to say you are sorry." Rubbish: love means you can say you are sorry without embarrassment or fear or loss of face, safe in the trust of the loved one not to score points or punish. Well, perhaps to score points but with warmth and tenderness. I can't imagine who thought up that upside down pernicious statement. Was it the original author, Eric Segal, if memory serves me - which it still does from time to time? Was it ironic? I don't think so. In my experience irony gets sea-sick on the Pond so it must have been meant with insight and passion. Which brings me back to my horoscope. I think that was ironic if you must know. Nos da

Friday, 20 February 2015


No-one likes to be left out, unless, of course, it's for an unclothed swim in Norway in winter. I have  noticed, however, that, in my inner world, I take this condition a bit too far. The other day, I was offered a  bread basket from which to choose a roll or whatever. My eye was caught by  a crunchy-looking white one at the far end. However, nearest to me there was a rather dull looking, squidgy brown one. Dear Reader, I took that one so as not to put it through the experience of being rejected. I feel bound to swear that I exaggerate not. A trip to the green-grocer is an exercise in compassion resulting in a fridge full of crooked carrots, bruised apples and some over-ripe bananas. Clearly, this particular neurosis needs attention more urgently than any of my others.

It may be possible to exorcise it simply by confessing. Let us see. I have to be very careful in a book shop, for instance. A book, once browsed, will have to be bought so as not to hurt its feelings. (Somewhere inside me I do know that books don't have feelings, thank you very much. That's what this bleet is trying to address). As I grow even older the habit seems to be managed in one of three ways. One: I smile indulgently at myself and go on apologising to but not buying the tasteless little red water-carriers masquerading as tomatoes, buying some more expensive ones instead,  two: I go the whole distance and simply buy the costly vine-grown ones or three: I go straight for  the water-carriers and their tastelessness. After all, over-breeding is not their fault. Broken biscuits, the heel of a loaf can all count on me to rescue them. My current feline friend turns up in the middle of the night waking me by crouching above and on my head where, presumably, my hair reminds him of the fur of his Mother. This is not a sensation that pleases me, not only because of the touch of  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I endure, but also because I can't believe that cat-dander is good for my coiffure. I have to rouse sufficiently to lift him down to the level of my shoulders, not an easy feat, raising one's arms above one's head and relocating an unwilling, resisting log of fur to where he doesn't want to be. Turf him right off?  Give him an experience of rejection? You are joking, of course.  Truth to tell, though, the last couple of nights, I have drifted up to find him already established where I prefer him to be. Not so stupid that one. For weeks, now, he has been using the facilities appropriately; no more 'accidents' in various wash-basins and carpet corners. But, he and a friend who is living here, have had to declare war on one another. Well, I did think that she had declared war on him. In fact, it's mutual. Last Sunday, when I had already changed a tainted litter tray, he shot in to her usually door-shut bathroom and performed again in the basin. She, understandably, was livid and accused him of being opportunist and evil. I protested that he was just a cat and, thus, couldn't be accused of such heinous intention. No, I don't believe that either. Bore da

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Now you see me......

On the days I routinely work at the out-patients enquiry desk at the local hospital I regularly witness a series of flotillas comprising a leading man followed by two ladies in full burqah and nihab. The sequence is rather like the one you see of migrating birds which appears as a sort of triangle with a leader in the van and a graduating breadth behind. I am struck by what I see as the irony of this arrangement. As I perceive it, the cover-all garments are intended to protect the modesty of the wearers and render them more or less invisible. As you will have realised , the effect is, in our western culture,  exactly the opposite: the women are infinitely more conspicuous by very reason of the total concealment of face and form. A friend recently reported her young Grandson as having asked how his little friends at the school gates would recognise their own Mummy. I have to assume it is either by a pre-arranged position or by voice. Anyway, there are no dramatic reports of  any small people being inadvertantly fed at  the wrong table

I have put to you many times one predicament of the elderly. There is a way in which we become totally invisible. I find myself bumped into, cut across, overtaken in to the lift and 'bus and enduring coats hung on a hook immediately behind my seat which is intended for the incumbent, only, of such seat. No "Do you mind", "excuse me" or anything indicating that there is an awareness of the presence of another human being.The Hospital provides yet another illustration. On the corner of the Enquiry Desk there is an internal telephone. Frequently, a young medic will appear, pick up the telephone, have a long consultation, put the phone down again and walk off as if leaving an own  phone. The three hundred and forty fifth time this happenned, I took my courage in both hands and called after the offender "You are welcome". Not a hair was turned and, indeed, it was I who was left in the wrong for the heinous crime of churlish intervention. Not long ago, I was walking on the right of a narrowish corridor at a concert venue in order to be well-placed for the lift to the auditorium which was situated to the right in a lobby further along. As I emerged in to this lobby, I was confronted by a young woman and her male companion heading in the direction from which I had just come. I, being more than three score and ten with a stick, stopped. So did she/they. For what seemed like a very long moment this woman, half my age  with no walking aid and I maintained a mute stand-off. Eventually, she did take a step backwards at which point, as I proceeded liftwards, I heard the man say, fortissimo, "I can't believe what manners have come to these days". I wish I had had the b...s to go after them and clarify who had which manners. I didn't .Clearly, there is only one thing for it: I shall Liz forth and equip myself with Burqah and hijab and let my cloak of invisibilty serve to make me as visible as the nose on your face. Prynhawn da.

Sunday, 1 February 2015


Yesterday, I was looking for something in what I call the present cupboard. There  finds itself wrapping paper, string, labels. tissue paper,  bubble wrap and potential presents. There is, therefore, no excuse whatsoever for resorting to a book token on a nice card with its own envelope rather than the latest Le Creuset stick-proof frying pan to be posted wherever. This chore having been done, I discovered that it was exactly one hour later than I thought it  was, leaving me in a get-up-and-go-NOW position with the floor littered with all the paraphanalia I had tossed out in the interest of my research. What a dilemma: leave it until I got back or risk being late for a concert and tidy it up before I went. The problem with great age - one of them - seems to be an obsessive need to leave the house visitor/stranger - proof. Suppose I don't come back. Would I want the last impression of me to be that I was a degenerate slut who left scraps of wrapping paper and a carrier bag full of carrier bags all over her bedroom floor? Well, clearly not.

Now there's a dilemma of a different ilk. The accuracholic in me is not comfortsble with those last three words. Are they a sentence? There is no verb so that rules that out. If I put a colon before them what happens to the question mark? Should it read "...bedroom floor: well, clearly not?..." Answers on a postage stamp, please, or by pressing 'comment' at the bottom of this post. I may have told you that there is a plan to go through every drawer and cupboard in order, in the fulness of time, to spare the young many, many months of irritating sorting and disposing. To this there are two approaches - at least. Do I hold on to stuff that has significance, from habit and sentiment, though it is  aeons passed its sell-by date and will never, ever be of use to me again? Or do I keep only the real necessaries and have a poorer environment as a result? As the process proceeds, I am dumbfounded by the quantity - and quality - of what fills my house. I have my Mother's sewing box. It is full of buttons and pins and needles and ribbons and rainbowic reels of thread.Today, I mended a jumper of a rather rare and luscious green with a reel of thread from my Mother's box which matched exactly. Were I to begin to take in sewing I would still never get through it all, with the addition of my own sewing tools,  collected before the inheritance from my Mother. (I have seven  tape measures, since you ask). Similarly, I have ounces and ounces of wool, and part finished knitting, including the back of what must have been an embryonic pullover or jumper in a complicated pattern for which I no longer have the pattern. Knitting was a passion but arthritis intervened. There shouldn't be a problem with books and music and clothing. There are recognisable avenues of disposal for those. It's the this and that (detritus?) of three score years and more than ten that may easily faze them.

 However, all this has made me aware of the delightful richness my stuff represents. I could throw out the television set and give up volunteering at the hospital and not be bored or idle for a second using all those resources. Perhaps not: maybe I should just  hold on to the pleasurable knowledge of the gold that surrounds me, keep up the passive pastimes and, above all, keep things tidy. Prynhawn da.

Friday, 23 January 2015


You may have noticed that, one way or another, I do rather keep on about language and the use of it. I do see it as reflective of our way of being in the world. There are rules and permissions and grammar and syntax. I see these as  clearly reflecting boundaries, patterns, containment in every area of life. The other take on this is the one that sees language as a moveable feast with no need for rules or formalised structure so long as one is understood. I read, recently, of an idea to teach children to write as they hear. The mind boggles. It reminded me of my first registered lesson in correct speech. I remembered my Mother teaching me the difference between 'can' and 'may'. "You can have another chocolate; you may not".It is  not only structure wh. should cradle us. What about the rhymes and reasons which pepper our careful language, learnt from the laps of the up-bringers

Looking back, I wish I had better understood the extraordinary power and scope of the parent in educating the young. However, on the positive side, it can be fun. Think of all those old wives' sayings. 'A stitch in time saves nine'.Fair enough: stitch up the inch of dropped hem before it turns in to six. 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves'. Rather a long-term prospect, that, I suspect. 'The  sleep you have before midnight is better in quality than sleep that comes after'. I am still working on that one. I must have been a nightmare to bring up. Face value was not my stance of first response. "Because I say so" was 'a red rag to a bull'. There must be some of you old enough to remember being told you couldn't wear your favourite jumper until it was aired. Indeed, I cannot be alone in being brought up in dire fear of the damp. or was that unique to the Welsh? In theory, I suppose, it would be possible to teach a child that black was white or that day was night, such is the power of the parent as the source of all experience. How big a step would that be to arrive at Hitler Youth? Oh dear, Liz appears to have mislaid her sense of the comic and the ironic. Ultimately, calling a spade a spade, the happiest of pithy sayings would have to be' do as you would be done by'. Bore da.
   Ps I forgot to tell you that an example of an 'how to' letter for a writer to send to a publisher - as opposed to an 'how not to' letter - contained a grammatical error in the first sentence. Not only accuracholic but pedantic, too - me, not them, or I not they.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Small Things

Yesterday's crossword had the clue "a quiet small portion" to which the answer was "particle". I know, I know: you have to have a particular mindset to work out this kind of conundra. Sometimes I wish my mindset was more of the "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" ilk. It is quite tiring always to be seeing the complexity of the straightforward. However, the small things I have in mind are not of the simple cigar type. I was thinking more of the way in which age has changed my perspective so that I am measurably more aware of the small pleasures lying about now I am sufficiently freer of crowding  obligations to recognise them.

Indeed, settling down with that very crossword, lying on my bed with nothing expected of me is treasurable in itself. I would have said that the presence of a feline friend would provide the cherry on the proverbial, but the current - no aural pun intended - incumbant is still young enough to remember snuggling up to Mum and would use my hair as surrogate fur if I didn't find that an inch or so too close. It is hard to believe that, for most of my life, there wasn't time to notice the way two birds will 'chat' to one another while sitting on the same branch. There is  a snowdrop in my garden. It feels a bit early but there it is. I stood and started at it until I was reminded this old back would prefer motion to immobility. Every time I answer a query at the Enquiry Desk in the local hospital I have to 'click and tick': that is, press on a little counting machine and tick in a category box. At the end of the shift, when the clicks add up to the same number as the ticks I have a little warm flutter of delicious satisfaction. I am happy when I drink the brown water  that passes for coffee at breakfast and I have got the proportions of grain, water and milk right. ( I no longer have the palate for strong flavours so no longer appreciate the real thing). Endlessly, I watch the little ones as they stagger about trying to make sense of their world. Sometimes they smile back at this funny old lady smiling at them. There is regurgitated pleasure in remembering one of my own little ones, barely verbal, searching for a way to mollify a carer, coming out with "'ello'" as the nearest tool in her tiny lexicon to do the trick.

The other day a Consultant who had cared for me during my near fatal illness walked passed me as I worked in the hospital. "You shouldn't be here" said he, not meaning at the Enquiry Desk but in the Universe at all. That gave me pleasure but \I can't measure the size of it. Bore da